Friday, July 17, 2009

The Edge

Part I: The Overview
I have been consumed and obsessed with knitting the edging on my afghan squares this week. It’s been a very addicting part of the process.

I picked the colour out last week and couldn’t wait to try it out. I also wanted to see if I could figure out just how much I would need. So I hopped right to it:
I got just about six blocks edged with one skein. You know what that means, right? Amy gets to sell me three skeins instead of two. Lucky her. (And I was so close!) I try not to think about the fact that Malabrigo just recently switched from a 116 yd skein to a 110 yd skein (at the same price). Those 6 yds probably would have made all the difference. But, like a pink elephant, I am trying not to think about it.

[Edited to add: The skeins actually changed from 216 to 210, and more importantly, I actually bought the "old" longer skein. So I can no longer regret missing 6 yards because I'm not missing them.]

Back to more positive thinking: doesn’t the edging look great!? I am loving how it works with the other colours and how it will provide a unifying outline to everything. Just what I was looking for.

Part II: The Details
A. Applying the border
The border is a basic garter stitch applied in a sort of log cabin style. In other words, I picked up and knit stitches along the bottom edge of a block with the right side facing me. I knit 5 rows and then bind off in the same direction that I had picked up the stitches. (I.e. with the right side facing me.)

Why so particular about which side is facing? Because then when I’m done binding off, I am at the opposite end of where I started and can then start the next edge without breaking my yarn. (It really is delightful.) And how do I do that?

Well, picture the last stitch on your needle after binding off the rest of the row:
Now turn your work 90 degrees and pick up stitches for the next edge.
Knit the border for that side and continue around the remaining edges. It was really slick the way it worked out. And addicting. I was always either just finishing or just starting another edge, and I get compulsive about finishing each little bit. So [almost] six blocks just flew off the needles this week.

B. Finding and fixing errors
Putting your work to close scrutiny will sometimes lead to unfortunate discoveries. Like the fact that I hadn’t decreased the extra stitches on my blue bramble block before doing the upper garter edge.

I picked up stitches for the border, counted them, and then realized I had 10 extra. I had to rip back the border on two sides, rip out the last four rows of the block itself, reknit them (remembering to decrease the stitches on the first row this time), bind off, and then set to the border again.

The second mistake was on my Simply Taupe mock cable block. I had known about it for a while, but had to go through all the stages.
Stage one: Ignorance. (I mean if I had known it was a mistake, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place.)
Stage two: Doubt. (Suspecting something is wrong but not actually investigating. That way the mistake is not yet fact.)
Stage three: Denial. (Knowing it is wrong, but not being willing to admit it.)
Stage four: Acknowledgement. (Finally recognizing the problem for what it is.)
Stage five: Accountability and Action. (Seizing responsibility for the problem and taking action to correct it.)
All that is to say, I had known for a while that my cable block was too short when it was stretched out to the right width. But once I reach stage five, I am a freight train that will not be stopped. I believe I was in the parking lot after doing groceries when I finally took out the top border rows, added one more repeat of the pattern, reknit the top border and got on with it! The time had come to fix a problem, and nothing was going to stop me from tackling it right then.

Part III: The Very Minute Details
A. Picking up stitches
I tried a new way of picking up the stitches. I’m something of a purist (I know, this is shocking to some of you) and so I have always picked up stitches through both loops of the edge stitch:
(I’ve traced over the stitch being picked up to make it more obvious.)

I mean, if you’re going to pick up a stitch, pick up the whole stitch, right? After reading a recent post of the Yarn Harlot, I was theoretically convinced to pick up just the front half of the stitch, and had to try it out for myself.

It completely worked, lies flatter and smoother, and I am converted.

So with this new method, you pick up just the front loop—ignoring the back loop—and knit it through the front or back depending on how it presents itself.
You can also chose to pick up a series of loops:
instead of doing one at a time. Some knitters will even do a whole row, but I find this awkward. This also works better on yarns with a bit more give or stretch to them. Using a smaller diameter needle will also give you a little more ease if you need it.

Here’s a picture of both methods from a different [super top-secret] project:
On the left, the blue stitches are picked up through both loops of the yellow edge stitches. You can see a rather thick line of stitches making a column of yellow Vs. It’s bulky and doesn't lie very flat. On the right, the blue stitches are picked up through just one loop and the blue “bumps” lie in between the two halves of the yellow Vs. It’s much flatter and smoother.

B. How many stitches do I pick up?
Another tip I got from the Yarn Harlot: don’t worry about how many stitches you need to end up with, just pick up one stitch for every edge stitch* and then adjust the number on your next row. Very sound advice. It keeps the first row very neat and even and saves you a lot of ripping out if you haven’t perfectly figured out exactly what ratio of stitches to pick up.

In this particular case, I knew I needed 52 stitches on all sides of the block (not counting the stitches on the border). This was easy on the top and bottom because they had 52 stitches already. Along the sides, however, the number of rows in a block varied a lot depending on the block pattern.

But it was very simple to pick up the stitches along the edge, count them (they varied from 42 to 65!) and then increase or decrease so that I had 52 stitches. Easy peasy! And by doing this I ensured that every side of the block would be the same size and have the same number of stitches so that I can seam them together easily later on.

Since I've run out of this colour of wool, I am stalled on this project until I get more. The big debate: buy before Amy runs out of the dye lot, or wait and see if I can hit another surprise Red Purl Baglady sale. Hmm...always a conumdrum.

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* I slip the first stitch of every row, so I have one edge stitch for every two rows. If you knit every stitch, you'll want to pick up a stitch for every two edge stitches.

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